Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘property maintenance

Like This

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It’s like this every year. The forest is constantly changing, but it becomes apparent suddenly all at once. It’s not as thick as it was before. Sightlines start to open up. It becomes easier to see deeper into our woods and I discover new and interesting spectacles.

This dead tree had sloughed its bark, but a vine prevented the old skin from dropping all the way to the ground, creating an eye-catching visual.

It’s also like this when deciding to go outside on a day of varying weather conditions. Our sky was a mix of sun and clouds yesterday, resulting in dramatic swings between cheery and gloomy. When I finally rallied to head outside to get something productive accomplished, the air was suddenly wet with waves of heavy mist.

My timing was off by about ten minutes. As fast as that precipitation arrived, it departed.

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Those two views were taken at the same time, first looking east, then turning around to the west.

The swings of dreariness messed with my motivation, such that I ended up puttering the day away nipping at the edges of doing something significant, but never really making much progress to speak of.

Some days, that’s just what it’s like around here.

At least it’s a beautiful place to be when not getting all that much done.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2019 at 7:41 am

Like Ships

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It’s funny how it can feel like I’m in a relationship with another vehicle on the drive home from the lake when it travels the same speed and direction as I am going. When they finally went straight through a roundabout that I turned south from, I felt as if I should send them off with some acknowledgment of the road miles we shared.

I arrived home yesterday around 11:00 a.m. and watched Cyndie prepare for a trip of her own. She left for a seminar in California, so I am on my own this week. We are like ships passing in the night lately.

Or, like cars on a drive home from the lake.

When she returns home at the end of the week, the plan is for us to head back up to the lake for the weekend. That will make three weeks in a row that I have been up there. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

It’s a treat, for sure, but it does require that I do the lawn mowing after work in the middle of the week and interferes with ever getting back to the lumberjack projects that linger in our woods unfinished. Small concerns, both of them, compared to the glorious beauty we get to enjoy up in the Hayward area.

I have a sense that a day is going to come when I will be facing long hours of labor with a chainsaw this fall. Too bad the hours of daylight get shorter as summer wanes. But, it’s the summer sunshine that is giving us all the more reason to be up on the water while the going is good.

You could say, the lumberjack projects and my attention to them are a little like ships passing in the night.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2019 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ Green

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With a little rearranging in the garage, I moved the ATV and snowplow to the back and brought the lawn tractor to the front. It’s a definitive sign of the change of season. I also got the back yard mowed, which brought out a whole lot of green in our landscape.

Probably in large part, because it chewed up the leaves from last fall that were still covering the bulk of the back hill, because we never got around to raking them before the snow arrived.

From there, we headed down to the labyrinth, where Cyndie pulled weeds and I reassembled the fallen blocks around our compost and wood chip locations.

Now, we need to replenish the wood chips, and there are plenty of branches waiting to be chipped. A short distance to the right from the view in that photo, there was a collection of branches from two years ago, when we hired professionals to trim dead wood from our trees.

It was a big reward to finally start pulling the debris out, because every time I have passed those trees since the day it was cut, I’ve wanted to have the job done.

I probably got through about half of what needs to be pulled out and stacked for processing, but it’s a good start.

I look forward to transforming that pile of branches into a filled wood chip station, which Cyndie can then use to dress up the landscape around her labyrinth plants.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2019 at 6:00 am

Temperature Driven

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Some chores don’t wait for a time when I actually feel like doing them. Draining hoses is one of those chores. Of course, who decides to coil up their garden hoses when it is warm and sunny outside? Not me.

It would be a treat to do it while the hoses were still pliable. That’s never been my experience. More often than not, I let the chore wait until the forecast suddenly predicts sub-freezing temperatures for the coming night.

Yesterday, that led to my needing to wrestle stiff coils in the damp and chilly fading daylight after I got home from work and tended to the animals.

Can you say, long day?

Delilah was very patient and stayed out with me while I worked, even though it pushed back her dinner to a later than normal hour. It demonstrates how much she treasures being out with us on a task. It is distinctly different from going for a walk.

She totally understands we are ‘working’ on something. We walked to the different locations where the hoses were being used, and after dragging each one back to the shop, she would look up at me to determine if it was time to go in the house, or if we were setting out after another hose.

After letting her in the house to have dinner, I stepped back out before it got dark to bring the air compressor up so I could blow out the buried water line that runs down to the spigot at the labyrinth garden.

With that chore accomplished, the only task left in preparation for serious freezing temperatures is to pull the pump and filter out of the landscape pond. I’m not worried about that for this first freeze tonight, because that water is moving and is unlikely to lock up with this first, brief dip below 32°(F).

For this night, we are now prepared to experience the possible freeze worry-free.

I think I’ll be a little disappointed if it doesn’t end up actually happening.

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Written by johnwhays

October 11, 2018 at 6:00 am

Ship Shape

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Lately, we are all about keeping up appearances. As I was mowing our gorgeous landscape yesterday, with the long driveway winding past the barn and paddocks, the beautiful horses grazing the grass arena, the wood-paneled shop garage with the bright red Ford F150 parked in front of it, up to the beautiful log house on top of the hill, I felt it must give the impression that we are rich.

Well, richer than we actually are. Of course, “rich” is a relative term, and compared to many of lessor means, we certainly are rich. We have been blessed with opportunity and are humbled to be able to live in this paradise, with means to commute the distances necessary to reach family, friends, and employment an hour away.

At the same time, there is another level of rich that comes to mind for me that would look a little different.

The first clue would be the condition of the driveway. Yeah, the fractured old asphalt with weeds and grass growing throughout doesn’t convey financial excess. Nor the age and condition of the rusted shell of a rolled pickup truck with the custom spray painted dents on the roof.

Of greatest significance, but probably not obvious to a passing traveler, Cyndie and I wouldn’t be the ones doing all the maintenance and grounds keeping. This weekend we did a LOT of work to keep this place looking sharp.

After a double day of projects on Friday, we started Saturday with the chain saw, cutting down a variety of standing dead trees that have been tainting the lively appearance around here for quite some time.

How many times do you walk past a chore (or chores) and pass it (them) off as a project for another day? Obviously, we can’t do everything at once, so some things have to wait. And wait. And wait.

There was a large spider web across the front of the shop garage one morning, but opening the big door didn’t disturb it. A couple of times, I had to stutter step my path to avoid getting a face full. Why didn’t I just knock it down? I was busy doing something else. So, the web stayed. For days.

This weekend, it came down. Spider webs are getting swept, equipment is getting rearranged in the garage, the paddock surfaces are scraped smooth and the rills created by runoff have been filled. The round pen sand has been raked and dead trees in the north field have been cut down, many carried to our makeshift natural barrier we are creating along our property border to the north. The grass has been mowed and the trails cleared with the power trimmer.

In high heat and humidity of the last full weekend of summer, the wealthy owners have done all this work by themselves, while also tending to the needs of horses, chickens, a dog, and a cat.

It saves us from needing to pay for a gym membership to keep ship-shape.

Maybe I can save that money up to pay for a new driveway someday.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2018 at 8:57 am

Demanding Attention

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All I can do is what I can do today. Mentally, tasks pile up beyond my ability to execute, often resulting in my getting even less accomplished than I otherwise could. Just like excessive heat will sap strength and endurance, the visualized burdens of work that should be done drains my energy and motivation.

This summer, there are signs of neglect at every turn that have me on the verge of choosing to simply ignore them in hope of recovering at least enough impetus to accomplish one deserving chore per day. The problem with that solution is that my gift of intentional ignorance is susceptible to getting out of hand. 

It would be far too easy for this place to take on the appearance of neglect run amok.

Might be time again to make a list and establish priorities. I’m more inclined to allow tasks to grab my interest as I’m treading from one thing to the next, but working a prioritized list does help keep me from completely ignoring things that shouldn’t be neglected.

I do have a default priority of seeking to at least maintain an ‘appearance’ of fastidiousness here, by maintaining the landscape by the road well enough to fool passersby. The recent coarse shredding of growth along the right-of-way has left a gaping mess that I hope to improve, but for now is nothing but an eyesore.

Yesterday, I dipped my toes into the project and was disheartened to discover how much work it will be to get it to the state I would like to see. That machine they use twists and shreds the branches into a tangled mess, and there are a lot more of them left lying there than I was aware.

In addition to pulling out and disposing of those, I need to cut off all the sharpened short spikes of growth left behind where the operator didn’t cut all the way to the ground. Some are small enough to be snipped with a lopper, but others deserve the chainsaw.

There is plenty of debris that could be run through our chipper, but I’m inclined to haul it the short distance to my project of a border wall of branches creating a hedge barrier to the cornfield just to our north.

The rest of that hedge wall needs to be trimmed, as well.

The diesel tractor needs an oil change before I put it to work on a big project.

The diesel tractor is needed to mow the dry creek drainage along our southern border.

Also need to move lime screenings to the paddock.

Want to blade the gravel drive around the barn.

The trail along the outside of our fence needs to be cut back with the power trimmer.

The fence line needs to be trimmed.

The trails need to be trimmed.

Dead trees recently fallen in the woods and on one trail need to be cut up.

Standing dead trees could be cut down, too. Would help look less neglected around here.

The arena needs to be mowed.

The round pen needs to be raked and grass around gazebo mowed.

The back up generator needs an oil change.

That’s what needs to be done today. I’ll start tomorrow’s list later. Right now I need to go out and see what grabs my attention to work on so I can avoid everything else that is on today’s list of chores demanding attention.

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Wondering If

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While trimming the remaining grass around all the pine trees over the weekend, three things triggered a new hypothesis about our ongoing loss of red pines. I’m wondering if it might have something to do with girdling from the trees being root bound.

I did some searching to see if being root bound might contribute to the way so many of our red pines are coming out of the ground at about a 45° angle before eventually turning to grow straight up, but didn’t find any hint of that connection.

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Then, while writing to describe my latest discoveries to our regional DNR Forester, it struck me that the eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow that fell in May of 2013 tipped many of our trees, but not all of them. In fact, mainly the red pines leaned over. If they were planted without proper attention to the roots, well, a root bound tree would have a hard time standing straight under that kind of load in the wet ground.

While laboring to walk through the cut growth with the power trimmer on my shoulder, I stumbled over an old stump of a long-dead tree. I was curious about an obvious circular root growth, but just tossed it to the side.

Later, while trimming beneath pine branches, I caught a brief glimpse of a girdling root on one tree which triggered a memory of long ago, when we lost a tree in Eden Prairie to root girdling. It led me to go back and reclaim that old stump for a picture, finally thinking I might be on to something.

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It occurred to me that I should also take a picture of the girdling root I had just spotted on that live tree. I retraced my path to find it again, but to no avail.

I was hot, tired, sweaty, and covered with weeds and grass shrapnel. I didn’t have the energy or mental acuity to execute an intelligent search. I am confident it is out there somewhere, unless maybe it was just an optical illusion that my mind used to help guide me further along this theory I was concocting. I’ll allow for a possibility it was all in my head.

If I receive a response from our Forester that lends credence to my thinking, I’ll undertake a more organized research expedition through that grove of pines again.

I realized, in afterthought, that my tired searching was mainly focused on looking at the leaning red pines, in support of my hypothesis. Maybe the root I noticed had yet to cause a problem, and was on one of the trees that still looked just fine.

It all definitely has me wondering. Did these red pines have already compromised root systems when they were all planted? There are several stumps still in the back yard from trees I cut off at ground level after they died. I could always exhume those remains to collect a little more evidence.

Put that on the “someday” list. For now, I’m going to wait to see if our DNR Forester thinks my latest findings could possibly explain our red pines slowly dying, year after year.

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Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2018 at 6:00 am